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Promised by Donald Trump pragmatic course of US foreign policy begins to be implemented. It is possible that it would be implemented in a disadvantageous for Ukraine way. Additional confirmation of this fact we have received over the weekend. Speaking in Saudi Arabia during the first foreign visit, Trump said the United States are using the so-called principled realism as the conceptual basis of its own foreign policy. This strategy was explained by The Wall Street Journal, informing on Trump’s initiative to replace military grants with loans. These changes should apply to Pakistan, Tunisia, Lebanon, Brazil, the Philippines, Vietnam, and most importantly - to Ukraine.
Subsequently, the veracity of this information was confirmed by the head of Management and Budget of the White House Mick Mulvaney.
So, why should Ukraine expect?
America’s replacement of grants for loans will be only the beginning of a sad story for Ukraine, and the prospects for a meaningful strategic partnership between Kyiv and Washington will become doubtful.
Generally, eclectic combination of "principles" and "realism," as Trump’s characteristic feature, appears not for the first time in the US. This magic formula has been used at least since the 1980s, and some researchers even believe that this ideological basis of US foreign policy lies in the famous "long telegram" of George Kennan (1947).
Eight years ago, Barack Obama had similar rhetoric. From this perspective, Trump did not say anything new.
However, we should consider the context, place and circumstances of this statement. The speech was delivered during the visit of US President to strategically important Saudi Arabia, contained a large number of religious connotations and was accompanied by an extensive sales agreement with American weapons, signaling a significant increase in the weight of the word "realism" in this combination.
"Realism" in principle involves a few simple things: the crucial role of national interests, formulated in terms of safety; key forces for their protection; isolation of domestic politics from foreign issues; state monopoly to participate in world politics.
Foreign policy is usually selfish, aimed at short-term benefits.
It is believed that the previous policy of the US administration, which spread democracy and got involved in regional conflicts around the world without clearly defined goals, suffered from lack of this kind of realism.
So what does this mean for Ukraine?
We focus on everything: we want the US to impose sanctions against Russia, we want to get NATO membership, weapons, more money and security guarantees. We would largely inconclusive, and it is certainly no accident.
Some of these goals are incompatible with one another to achieve other efforts associated with serious risks. Therefore, the US will support us only to the extent that it meets their own interests. In this sense, indeed every American president in 70 years could be called realistic.
Trump's words give us at least three reasons for concern.
First, the "Principled Realism" is a mixed signal. What US foreign policy is guided by? The pragmatic benefits calculated by force or the common vision?
We have to answer the questions what should be the cornerstone of our cooperation - geopolitical value (including the ability to counterbalance Russian influence) or common democratic values?
Until now, we have been heading some uncertain way, effectively combining "doing well against the evil." As a result, we do not have something to boast of, I mean in terms of democratic achievements, neither in regard to substantive geopolitical partnership with the United States.
American "Principled Realism" offers Washington the possibility to maneuver and choose appropriate allies.
Second, counting money, weapons, and divisions is easier than measuring common values. The pragmatic shift in US foreign policy means we need to concretize our assets.
We are not the first and not the last ones, who are trying to build relationships with the US on democratic slogans. But democracy is difficult to measure, and the results of these measurements would hardly please the Ukrainians.
In the rankings of democratic development, we continue to hold some places like in 2010. For the "realist with principles," who might suddenly want to erase Ukraine from the list of its priorities, it will be a sufficient reason.
Reduction of financial aid, grant programs, and replacement of grants loans become systemic manifestations of changes in the strategy of Washington.
In the future, this approach could also expand to our cooperation with NATO – for some time we should forget about the dream to join the collective security system without demonstrating super efforts in reforming the country.
Finally, in the third, more pragmatic US policy would strengthen the negative trend for us that were laid by the aggressive actions of Russia in 2014.
The world will be a place where the rule of force, mistrust, and other realistic symptoms are more noticeable.
Under these conditions, weak states would feel a special danger.
What should Ukraine do in this situation? Oddly enough - nothing new. As before, we need to adopt a normal foreign policy strategy.
The only difference between the previous period and the present one is that Trump’s new policy would increase our pay for our failures.